Why We Cannot Fly

They carry their houses up a long hill
Almost a beginning

After all these surprises
We will meet again

It is nervous beyond imagining here
Layered with this pelt of believers
Saying yes saying no

Salt Spring Island

She hums a song from the Sacred Harp
How long dear savior, Oh how long
Shall this bright hour delay
as she paints her dead son.

In between an uncatchable
Banty rooster observes
a hanging and one day
she spends an entire morning
whistling up dead pharaohs
in staccato bunches.

Her name is Leland,
after her grandfather —
a former slave. People
call her Lilly. She lives on
an infernal scrap of farmland
on Salt Spring island.

In between she winds a tourniquet,
eats Juniper berries and chalk,
looks down from her high window
and paints what she sees.

Eye Motes #3

1
We gathered wild asparagus beneath the powerlines.

2
A hummingbird weighs the same as a nickel.

3
Somewhere the new Mozart is fleeing a patron.

4
Betrayed by fiat currency we drank from each others mouths.

5
The reticulated arms of trees by the side porch.

6
Recall whisking tea during the ceremony, the sound in the bowl.

7
New grandchild awaits birth and surgery; mother a slow savage.

8
Last night before sleep, an Armageddon of choice.

9
The sky let down one hollow canyon.

10
A dagger of ice falls into Glacier bay.

11
A child of answers, only answers.

12
I clean the orchard mud from my rolled up pant legs.

13
Where once we hunted black tail deer, sculpture and swallows.

Song of the Subway

A carnival of shoes, tracked and true.
  False to travelers who wander aloud,

soft in their thoughts, catatonic in the breakfast sun.
  Shade in the tunnels, the mud-soaked margins,

midway inside the mad and quickened place,
  carried away — a steelpan artist!

Scientist of twing: ba-da-ting, ba-da-ting—relief
  throbs the green and tiled halls.

Cornered by Trinidad, alert and bible high,
  below him a mutt and a Slurpee cup.

Plates of bystanders—a Greek salad of hurry.
  Calmly the former merchant marine,

deserted, he calls out the chorus—sublingual sounds,
  dog eared by feet and the rumbling train.

Speedway

Go with the loud, the sweet, the high
Ones. It doesn’t mean a thing,
On the slick hardpan of Nazareth’s curves,
To bounce the brickyard wall–

Or Portland for the G I Joe,
Under the mussel clouds,
If in first place beneath the stands,
Your engine throws a rod.

Oversteer, push, in dirty or clean
Air, down force is your hot friend.
It’s bump and run to spray the wine,
Or it’s grenade and catch the fence.

Book Review: Republic Cafe by David Biespiel

My review of a fine new book-length poem by David Biespiel was just published in the May issue of Plume.

Republic Café is David Biespiel’s sixth book of poetry. It is arguably his finest work. Loosely based on Alain Resnais’ romantic drama film Hiroshima Mon Amour, this book-length poem borrows the movie’s main storyline and recasts it as a shape-shifting Noh play, presented in 54 numbered sections. The story follows two lovers over a 36-hour period as they meet and have an affair in the days following 9/11.

More…

Republic Café
David Biespiel
University of Washington Press
$19.95 hardcover
January 2019

Brace and Bit

My grandfather’s brace and bit
wasn’t very useful. Leftover

from the days of sail, it was
a country carpenter’s tool.

To countersink a screw
or drill a pilot hole

you had to put your shoulder into it
and often clear the ratchet and the pawl.

But the bits! The bits had heft and soul.
He had a rack of them like rebel soldiers

just back from building pinewood boats
to carry Jackson’s army across the flood.

Long shank and tapered tang
and a ribboned twist for cutting,

they were like the devil’s hoof to sharpen–
and could open a finger lengthwise too.